Sunday, November 21, 2010

Full circle with pistols from single-stack to double-stack and back

Life in some ways is a circle. We go from childhood to adulthood and then at least in some ways back in old age to what is gently humored as our "second childhood."

And in my lifetime of relations with handguns, in particular with pistols, I've made a full circle from single-stack magazine pistols to double-stack and now back to single-stack again.

My first love was a Colt 1911 .45 ACP which my daddy brought home one day when I was about 10. He let me shoot it and though it was heavy, I was really surprised at how easy it was to shoot. Daddy tossed an old peach basket out in the yard about 10 yards away and proceeded to put a few holes it it. Then he handed the 1911 to me and I finished off the magazine of seven by putting more holes in the basket with every shot.

The recoil of that all-steel .45 was no big deal at all to this 10-year-old kid, and I shot the 1911 just like my daddy did, with one hand. From that day forward, I was a 1911 .45 guy, so by the time I joined the Navy, boot camp held no surprises on how to field strip and shoot 1911-A1 .45s.

I carried 1911 .45s while on guard duty aboard various Navy ships from 1967-71 and took every opportunity for some target shooting off the fantail of the ship, which was occasionally allowed. I well remember one day on the fantail of the USS Mullinnix, DD-944, on the way to Vietnam in 1969.

The captain called for target shooting and led the party shooting his personal Browning Hi-Power. And after he put a few holes in a target, I stepped up after him with one of the very loose 1911s from the ship's armory and shot a tighter group than the skipper did.

He made no comment and I was an impertinent idiot to expect him to admit that a lowly sailor just outshot him. Impetuous youth.

But I never got around to owning my first handgun until shortly after 9/11. I had been reading one of Jeff Cooper's books where he opined that the .45 ACP round had "almost enough power" and extolled the new 10mm round which he helped develop as a superior cartridge for self-defense, hunting and all purposes.

So when the decision was made to buy a handgun, I went looking for a 10mm and found a S&W 1076. I later learned on researching it that the 1076 was the FBI issue handgun from 1990-95. Its adoption largely stemmed from the infamous Miami shootout where agents armed with .357 Magnum revolvers and 9mm pistols were badly outgunned by a pair of heavily armed bank robbers. Two agents died that fateful day and the FBI decided to upgrade to 10mm pistols.

The S&W 1076 is an all-stainless-steel pistol with a Commander-sized 4.25" barrel and a 9-rd. single-stack magazine. The FBI abandoned it for smaller, lighter pistols in 1995 and that's what I later did also as I began a transition into concealed-carry handguns. You can carry and conceal a 1076, but it sure ain't easy or very much fun carrying an all-steel handgun.

My first concealed-carry handgun began a love affair with .357 Sig, a pistol cartridge developed to provide similar ballistics to the classic .357 Magnum 125-grain revolver load. But instead of being limited to six rounds, you get as many as a magazine will hold. Even single-stack magazines hold more than a typical .357 Magnum revolver.

So I bought an Austrian-made Steyr M357-A1 in 2006, a compact pistol with a 4" barrel and 12-rd. double-stack magazines plus a polymer frame like that other plastic pistol made in Austria. I later added a M9A1, the 9mm version.

And from there, if a pistol didn't have double-stack magazines and a lightweight frame of polymer or alloy, I wasn't interested in it. I carried occasionally and was perfectly happy with my Steyrs and other double-stack-magazine pistols I acquired in 10mm, 9mm and more in .357 Sig, plus my first 1911 .45, a Llama I-XC double-stack version of Browning's classic.

Then in January 2009, I went to work at a gun store and began carrying all day, every day. After an attempted armed-robbery of the shop, I began carrying a main and a backup, or as the late famed New York cop Jerry Cerullo dubbed it, the New York reload. Shoot one dry and pull another. Faster than reloading.

My gun collection grew at a much faster pace over the past nearly two years working at the gun shop. To date it includes two more double-stack .45s, a full-size Para P14-45 and a compact P12-45, in addition to four more .357 Sig pistols, two Sig P229s and two S&W M&Ps, compact and subcompact. I also added more 9mm pistols, plus several revolvers from .327 Magnum to .44 Special.

My love of Sig pistols brought me back to single-stack .45s as I acquired first a full-size P220 then a compact size. I discovered to my amazement that I can actually shoot a P220 more accurately than my 1911 .45s, all three of which are double-stackers.

And then the daily toll of double-carry caught up with my aging back and translated into back pain. So I scaled back on carry to a lightweight .38 or .44 and my single-stack Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm ultracompact or a subcompact Steyr S9A1 I recently acquired when Steyr-Mannlicher began importing pistols to the U.S again.
So in light of that decision, I decided I needed another .357 Sig pistol in a subcompact design with a single-stack magazine. Enter the Sig P239 SAS Gen2 Two-Tone, which I now have on special order from Sig. I have a Sig P229 SAS Gen2 Two-Tone which is currently my favorite pistol to shoot. I liked it so much I bought a plain-Jane P229R .357 Sig, too.

The SAS Gen2 model line includes night sights and the Sig Short Reset Trigger, in addition to the Sig Anti Snag treatment of slide and frame to smooth off all edges and corners on the slide and frame. But the SRT is the best feature, I can shoot double-taps with my P229 SAS virtually effortlessly.

I love my P229s, but I think I'm going to love the P239 even more for its lower weight for daily carry. As with all special orders from Sig, I have no schedule for delivery, but I'm hopeful it will be a pleasant surprise like my P229 SAS was, which arrived in a little more than a week after the order was placed.

When it does arrive, you'll read more about it here. I can hardly wait but I'll have to anyway.


Particia said...

nice post!

Alex said...

Sweet pistols! My Dad is a gun lover too. He collects antique revolvers and he takes care of them very well. He cleans them regularly and put coating gun on them. Like auto coatings, it serves to protect the surface to avoid some rust.